As I noted in my previous blog entry, I received some anonymous hate mail in my parish post office box concerning the following pictures that ran on the front page of the local newspaper:
If you can't read the text because my scanner hates newsprint, it reads with names omitted,
"Blessing of the Animals-
Today is the feast day of St. Francis of Assisi, patron saint of animals. To honor him and the creatures he loved, the Rev. ____ ____ pastor of Saint Paul's Episcopal Church in Brookings, here a "Liturgy for the Blessing of the Animals in the church courtyard on Sunday afternoon. On hand were about eight dogs and their owners. Shown above Father _____ blesses Maxwell, who is owned by the pastor and his wife, ____. At left, _____ ______ holds his black footed ferret and _____ _____ looks on while the Rev. _____ _____ blesses the stuffed animal."
That seemed to me, and everyone I know that saw it, to be a fairly innocuous couple of pictures. I actually quite liked them. Apparently this theologically distressed some poor soul to the point that they felt like they needed to send me anonymous hate mail. To be the fair, the original letter, at least most of it, is fairly non-threatening. The little cartoon booklets that were enclosed with pictures of priests in clerical collars burning in hell was the particularly threatening part. I have received hate mail before of a much more direct and ominous kind, so this is nothing new to me. As such, I pay no heed to stuff sent anonymously. If the person cannot even be bothered to come face me directly or, at the very least, sign their name to it, then I do not worry about it. At least in this letter, I have no doubt that the sender in his or her own mind (twisted though it may be) meant well. As such, I will not comment on that aspect any further, other than to say what we say Down South, "Well, bless your heart!" (Southerners will understand what that means.)
What I would like to comment on is the theological questions that the letter raises. I may at some point comment on the booklets' assertions, but I do not have the wherewithal right now to tackle all the ignorant misinformation in them. Perhaps one day I will. For purposes of this and subsequent blog entries, I am going to attempt to briefly answer the theological questions posed. Since the letter seems to raise several issues, I will tackle them all individually so as this blog entry will not run on for pages.
Also, let me be clear that I would have been more than happy to respond to this person or persons (they do write in parts of the letter in the plural) directly, had they left me contact information of any kind. As such, blogging will have to suffice.
As I see it, the letter raises the following legitimate and non-legitimate topics (in no particular order): Where in God's Word do I find Francis of Assisi? Where do I come off blessing animals (or non-humans)? Where do I come off blessing inanimate objects? What theology (read: actual Scripture verses) do I base any of the preceding questions on? Am I born again? Am I concerned for the people who come to my church? Do I teach them God's Word? Do I really know what God's Word says? Did God call me or did I decide to be a pastor?
I think each one of those topics actually merit a response. Some of them, in their own way, are actually very good questions. As such, I plan on answering them all in a mini-series of blog entries in the coming days (or weeks).
Please stay tuned for the series that I am going to call, "Blessings and Curses."